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Publication numberUS6468353 B1
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 09/538,013
Publication dateOct 22, 2002
Filing dateMar 29, 2000
Priority dateJun 4, 1997
Fee statusLapsed
Also published asUS20020170672
Publication number09538013, 538013, US 6468353 B1, US 6468353B1, US-B1-6468353, US6468353 B1, US6468353B1
InventorsIlya Perlov, Alexey Goder, Eugene Gantvarg, Howard E. Grunes
Original AssigneeApplied Materials, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for improved substrate handling
US 6468353 B1
Abstract
A method and apparatus are provided for substrate handling. In a first aspect, a temperature adjustment plate is located below a substrate carriage and is configured such that a substrate may be transferred between the temperature adjustment plate and the substrate carriage by lifting and lowering the substrate carriage above and below the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate. The temperature adjustment plate may be configured to heat and/or cool a substrate positioned thereon. In a second aspect, the substrate carriage is magnetically coupled so as to rotate and/or lift and lower magnetically, thereby reducing particle generation via contact between moving parts (and potential chamber contamination therefrom). In a third aspect, a substrate handler positioned below the substrate carriage is both magnetically coupled and magnetically levitated, providing further particle reduction. The magnetic levitation is preferably achieved via four radially disposed and vertically arranged magnet pairs having distance sensors for maintaining desired spacing therebetween. In a most preferred embodiment, one substrate is heated/degassed on a first portion of a temperature adjustment plate in preparation for processing while a second substrate is processed, and a third processed substrate is cooled on a second portion of the temperature adjustment plate.
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Claims(11)
What is claimed is:
1. A transfer chamber comprising:
a first sealable slit;
a second sealable slit adapted to couple to a vacuum processing chamber;
a substrate handler adapted to transfer substrates through the second sealable slit;
a temperature adjustment mechanism adapted to adjust the temperature of a substrate contained within the transfer chamber,
wherein the temperature adjustment mechanism comprises a temperature adjustment plate adapted to support at least one substrate; and
a movable substrate carriage having one or more substrate storage members, adapted to place at least one substrate on the temperature adjustment plate.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the substrate carriage comprises a plurality of substrate storage members.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the substrate carriage is adapted to rotate and to elevate above and below a level of a top surface of the temperature adjustment plate.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 comprising a substrate handler disposed below the substrate carriage and having a blade adapted to hold a substrate.
5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein the substrate carriage is adapted to place at least one substrate on the substrate handler blade.
6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the substrate handler is a linear substrate handler.
7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the temperature adjustment plate comprises a cavity, and wherein the linear wafer handler is at least partially disposed within the cavity.
8. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the chamber comprises a slit located at a first level;
the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate and the blade are positioned at the first level;
the substrate carriage is adapted to rotate and to elevate above and below the first level; and
each storage member comprises a pair of opposing wafer supports having a passage therebetween which is wider than the substrate handler blade.
9. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein each substrate storage member comprises a pair of opposing wafer supports having a passage therebetween which is wider than the substrate handler blade.
10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the temperature adjustment plate, the substrate carriage and the substrate handler are coupled to a first wall of the chamber.
11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the temperature adjustment plate is adapted to support two substrates; and
the substrate carriage is rotatable having three substrate storage locations and adapted to elevate above and below a top surface of the temperature adjustment plate; and
the substrate handler is a linear substrate handler and disposed below the substrate carriage having a substrate support adapted to support a substrate;
wherein the substrate carriage and the substrate support are adapted so that lowering of the substrate carriage transfers substrates to the temperature adjustment plate and to the substrate support, and such that the substrate support can travel through the second sealable slit while the substrate carriage is lowered.
Description

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/332,207, filed Jun. 12, 1999 (AMAT Docket No. 1259/CO1/ATD/MBE) now U.S. Pat. No. 6,287,386, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/869,111, filed Jun. 4, 1997 (now U.S. Pat. No. 5,951,770).

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to substrate processing, and more particularly to a method and apparatus for improved substrate handling.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Cluster tools are commonly used in the fabrication of integrated circuits. A cluster tool typically includes a load lock chamber for introducing substrates (e.g., semiconductor wafers) into the tool and a central transfer chamber for moving substrates between the load lock chamber and a plurality of processing chambers and one or more cool down chambers mounted on the transfer chamber. Typically, either a single blade or a double blade robot is located within the transfer chamber to move substrates between the load lock chamber, the processing chambers, the cool down chamber(s) and then back to the load lock chamber. Exemplary cluster tools, robots and substrate handling methods are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,951,601 and 5,292,393, both of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

Within a cluster tool a typical substrate handler arm capable of 360° rotation and extension is positioned inside the central transfer chamber. In operation the substrate handler rotates to align its blade with a sealable slit (e.g., a slit valve) which connects the central transfer chamber to a load lock chamber (i.e., a load lock slit). The substrate handler extends through the load lock slit, picks up a substrate, retracts, rotates to position the substrate in front of a processing chamber slit (which connects the central transfer chamber with the processing chamber) and extends through the slit to place the substrate in the processing chamber. After the processing chamber finishes processing the substrate, the wafer handler extends through the processing chamber slit, picks up the substrate, retracts and rotates to position the substrate in front of a cool down chamber slit. The substrate handler again extends placing the substrate in the cool down chamber and then retracts therefrom. After substrate cooling is complete, the substrate handler extends through the cool down chamber slit, picks up the substrate and retracts through the cool down chamber slit in order to extract the substrate and carry the substrate to another processing chamber or return the substrate to the load lock chamber. While the substrate is processing or cooling, the substrate handler places and extracts other substrates from the remaining chambers (e.g., load lock, processing or cool down chambers) in the same manner. Thus, the substrate handler undergoes a complex pattern of rotations and extensions, requiring a mechanically complex and expensive substrate handler. Further, each substrate handler extension and rotation requires considerable operating space and may introduce reliability problems.

One way to improve system efficiency is to provide a robot arm having the ability to handle two substrates at the same time. Thus, some equipment manufacturers have provided a robot arm in which two carrier blades are rotated about a pivot point at the robot wrist (e.g., via a motor and belt drive positioned at the substrate handler's wrist). Thus, a first substrate (e.g., to be processed) may be stored on one blade while the other blade picks up a second substrate (e.g., previously processed). The carrier blades are then rotated and the first stored substrate is placed as desired. Such a mechanism is rather complex and requires a massive arm assembly to support the weight of a carrier blade drive located at the end of an extendible robot arm. For example, three drives are usually required for a system incorporating such a robot arm: one drive to rotate the arm, one drive to extend the arm, and one drive to rotate the carrier blades. Any improvement in throughput provided by such a multiple carrier robot comes at a price of increased equipment/manufacturing cost, increased weight and power consumption, and increased complexity and, thus, reduced reliability and serviceability.

Another approach places two robot arms coaxially about a common pivot point. Each such robot arm operates independently of the other and improved throughput can be obtained through the increased handling capacity of the system. However, it is not simple to provide two robot arms for independent operation about a common axis. Thus, multiple drives must be provided, again increasing manufacture/equipment costs and complexity while reducing reliability.

The various processes which are performed on the various substrates, may require different processing times. Therefore, some substrates may remain in a chamber for a short period of time after processing is completed before they are moved into a subsequent processing chamber because the subsequent processing chamber is still processing another substrate. This causes a substrate back log and decreases system throughput.

In addition to varying processing times, another factor which affects throughput is the need to cool individual substrates following processing. Specifically, the number of movements a substrate handler must make in order to process numerous substrates increases significantly when the substrates must be transferred to one or more cool down chambers following each processing step. Additionally, incorporation of one or more cool down chambers reduces the number of positions on the transfer chamber where a processing chamber may be positioned. Fewer processing chambers can result in lower system throughput and can increase the cost of each wafer processed.

Therefore, there remains a need for a method and apparatus for improved substrate handling module which can increase substrate throughput while preferably providing substrate cooling.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention improve upon the “Carousel Wafer Transfer System” described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/332,207 from which this application is a continuation-in-part. Various embodiments of the invention provide aspects which enhance substrate heating and cooling efficiency, reduce substrate handler complexity, reduce contact between moving parts during substrate transfer operation (e.g., reducing particle generation associated therewith), improve substrate handling equipment reliability, and/or increase substrate throughput.

In a first aspect, the invention comprises a temperature adjustment plate located below a substrate carriage (such as the rotatable carousel described in the parent application Ser. No. 09/332,207) and configured such that a substrate may be transferred between the temperature adjustment plate and the substrate carriage, by lifting and lowering the substrate carriage above and below the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate. The temperature adjustment plate may be configured to heat and/or cool a substrate positioned thereon.

In a second aspect, the substrate carriage is magnetically coupled so as to rotate and/or lift and lower magnetically, thereby reducing particle generation via contact between moving parts (and potential chamber contamination therefrom).

In a third aspect, a substrate handler positioned below the substrate carriage is both magnetically coupled and magnetically levitated, providing further particle reduction. The magnetic levitation is preferably achieved via four radially disposed and vertically arranged magnet pairs having distance sensors for maintaining desired spacing therebetween.

In a preferred embodiment, one substrate is heated/degassed on a first portion of a temperature adjustment plate in preparation for processing while a second substrate is processed, and a third processed substrate is cooled on a second portion of the temperature adjustment plate. An advantage of this arrangement is that the chamber containing the substrate carriage requires only a small volume of operating space, and may be quickly pumped to vacuum pressure. Thus, certain embodiments need not employ a separate load lock chamber.

Other features and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, the appended claims and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top plan view of a chamber containing a preferred substrate carriage and temperature adjustment plate;

FIG. 2A is a top plan view of the chamber of FIG. 1 showing a substrate handler in an extended position;

FIG. 2B is a top plan view of the chamber of FIG. 1 showing a substrate handler in a retracted position;

FIG. 3A is a side elevational view of a temperature adjustment plate configured for heating;

FIG. 3B is a side elevational view of a temperature adjustment plate configured for cooling;

FIG. 3C is a side elevational view of a temperature adjustment plate configured for both heating and cooling;

FIG. 4A is a front elevational view showing a magnetically coupled substrate carrier in an elevated position;

FIG. 4B is a front elevational view showing a magnetically coupled substrate carrier in a lowered position;

FIG. 5A is a front elevational view of the chamber of FIG. 1, containing a preferred magnetically levitated and magnetically coupled substrate handler; and

FIG. 5B is a side elevational view of the chamber of FIG. 1, containing the preferred magnetically levitated and magnetically coupled substrate handler of FIG. 5A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 is a top plan view of a chamber 11 containing a preferred substrate carriage 13 and temperature adjustment plate 15. A central shaft 17 is fixedly coupled to the temperature adjustment plate 15 and extends therefrom through a center region of the substrate carriage 13. Preferably the central shaft 17 is not in contact with the center region of the substrate carriage 13, but rather is coupled to the substrate carriage 13 via a motor (motor 57 in FIGS. 4A and 4B) as described further below with reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B. The substrate carriage 13 comprises three equally spaced branches 19 a-c which extend radially outward from the center region of the substrate carriage 13. Each branch 19 a-c comprises a pair of substrate supports 21 a-b which face outwardly (i.e., away from each other) therefrom. The branches 19 a-c are preferably machined from the same piece of material or may be made of two or more separate parts connected together using bolts, screws or other connectors including welding, such that they rotate and/or elevate together as a unit. The branches 19 a-c and the substrate supports 21 a (e.g., of a first branch 19 a) and 21 b (e.g., of a second branch 19 b) are configured so as to define a plurality of substrate seats 23 a-c each of which supports a substrate (not shown) by its edge. By placing a substrate (not shown) on a pair of substrate supports 21 a-b secured to adjacent branches (e.g., branches 19 a, 19 b, branches 19 a, 19 c or branches 19 b, 19 c) a passage is maintained for a substrate handler blade 24 a of a substrate handler 24 (shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B) to pass therethrough during substrate handoffs between the substrate carriage 13 and the substrate handler blade 24 a, as described further below.

The substrate supports 2la-b are preferably made of a ceramic such as alumina, quartz or any other hard material which is compatible with semiconductor substrates and does not produce particles or scratch a substrate during contact therewith. The substrate supports 2la-b are attached to the bottom of the branches 19 a-c, such that the substrate carriage 13 may lower the substrate supports 21 a-b below the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate 15, and below the substrate handler blade 24 a, thus transferring a substrate supported by a substrate seat 23 a-c to the temperature adjustment plate 15 and/or to the substrate handler blade 24 a, while the remainder of the substrate carriage 13 (i.e., the branches 19 a-c) remains above and does not contact either the temperature adjustment plate 15 and/or the substrate handler blade 24 a. A preferred mechanism for lifting and lowering the substrate supports 21 a-b (and the substrate carriage 13) is described below with reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B.

The temperature adjustment plate 15 is configured to simultaneously support two substrates (not shown), when the substrate carriage 13 lowers the substrate supports 21 a-b to an elevation below the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate 15. In order to achieve uniform heating or cooling across the entire substrate surface, the temperature adjustment plate 15 is preferably coextensive with the substrates placed thereon. Thus, in order to allow the substrate supports 21 a-b to lower to an elevation below that of the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate 15, the temperature adjustment plate 15 comprises four notches 25 a-d placed to receive the substrate supports 21 a-b. Preferably the temperature adjustment plate also comprises a cut out region 26 in which the substrate handler 24 (FIGS. 2A and 2B) may be housed. As best understood with reference to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the cut out region 26 is configured to provide sufficient space for the substrate handler 24 to extend and retract.

Preferably the chamber 11 has two sealable slits 27 a-b (e.g., conventional slit valves) positioned on opposite walls of the chamber 11. Preferably the first slit 27 a is disposed to receive substrates from a substrate handler (not shown) which travels among a plurality of transfer chambers (not shown) configured such as transfer chamber 11, and the second slit 27 b is coupled to a processing chamber 29, as described in detail in co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/187,133, filed Mar. 6, 2000 (AMAT No. 4026), the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by this reference. The processing chamber 29 is coupled to the slit 27 b opposite the substrate handler 24, such that the substrate handler blade 24 a travels in a straight line (e.g., along a single axis) to place and extract substrates within and from the processing chamber 29, as further described with reference to FIGS. 2A and 2B.

FIG. 2A is a top plan view of the chamber 11 of FIG. 1, showing the substrate handler 24 in an extended position, and FIG. 2B is a top plan view of the chamber 11 of FIG. 1 showing the substrate handler 24 in a retracted position. The exemplary substrate handler 24 of FIGS. 2A-B may be analogized to a human arm having an elbow 24 b which extends outwardly when the arm retracts. Such extendable arm type substrate handlers are conventionally employed in semiconductor fabrication and their specific configuration is well known in the art. Accordingly the notch 26 located in the temperature adjustment plate 15 is sized and shaped to accommodate the substrate handler 24's elbow 24 b during substrate handler retraction, as shown in FIG. 2B. The substrate handler 24 preferably includes a wafer gripping mechanism (not shown) as described in parent application Ser. No. 09/332,207 which stabilizes and centers a substrate supported by the blade 24 a.

FIG. 3A is a side elevational view of a temperature adjustment plate 15 a configured for heating (i.e., a heat plate 15 a) that may be employed as the temperature adjustment plate 15. The heating plate 15 a has a resistive heating element 31 disposed therein. The heating plate 15 a may comprise any conventional heated substrate support (e.g., a stainless steel substrate support) having a temperature range sufficient for the heating process to be performed (typically about 150-600° C. for most annealing applications). A substrate (e.g., a semiconductor wafer) may be placed directly on the heating plate 15 a (e.g., via the substrate carriage 13); or optionally, on a plurality of pins 32 (preferably 3-6 pins, most preferably three pins 32 a-c per substrate as shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B) which extend from the heating plate 15 a, so as to facilitate gas flow along the backside of the substrate and so as to reduce contact between the substrate and the heating plate 15 a (thereby reducing particle generation by such contact). The heating plate 15 a of FIG. 3A includes two sets of pins 32 a-c for supporting two substrates. Short pin heights facilitate heat transfer from the heating plate 15 a to a substrate (not shown) positioned thereon; preferably the pins 32 a-c are between 0.005-0.02 inches in height.

To improve substrate temperature uniformity during heating, the heating plate 15 a preferably is larger than the diameter of the substrate being heated (e.g., such that the heating plate extends about an inch beyond the diameter of each substrate positioned thereon). The heating plate 15 a heats a substrate primarily by conduction (e.g., either direct contact conduction if a substrate touches the heating plate 15 a or conduction through a dry gas such as nitrogen disposed between the heating plate 15 a and a substrate when the substrate rests on the pins 32 a-c). A convective heating component also may be employed if gas is flowed along the backside of the substrate during heating. However, the heating plate 15 a may require an elevated edge (not shown) or an electrostatic chuck (as is known in the art) so as to prevent substrate movement due to such backside gas flow.

The chamber 11 preferably has a small volume to allow for rapid evacuation of the chamber (described below) and to reduce process gas consumption. As shown in FIG. 1, a gas inlet 33 couples an inert dry gas source 35 (such as a noble gas or nitrogen, preferably 100% N2 having fewer than a few parts per million of O2 therein, or 4% or less of H2 diluted in N2 and having fewer than a few parts per million of O2 therein) to the chamber 11. The gas emitted from the dry gas source 35 may be further “dried” via a getter or cold trap (not shown) within the gas inlet 33. A gas outlet 37 couples the chamber 11 to a vacuum pump 39 which, in operation, pumps gas from the chamber 11. Thus the chamber 11 can be periodically or continuously purged with inert gas to remove particles and desorbed gasses from the chamber 11.

The rate at which the inert gas flows into the chamber 11 is controlled via a needle valve or flow controller 40 (e.g., a mass flow controller) operatively coupled along the gas inlet 33. Preferably, the vacuum pump 39 comprises a rough-pump, such as a dry pump, having a pumping speed of between about 1-50 liters/sec for rapid evacuation of the chamber 11. The gas outlet 37 comprises an isolation valve 41, such as a pneumatic roughing port valve, operatively coupled to the vacuum pump 39 so as to control the gas flow rate from the chamber 11 and preferably further comprises a chamber exhaust valve 43 for use during chamber purging. Because a rough pump is capable of evacuating a chamber to a pressure of a few milliTorr or higher, a rough pump alone may be employed for applications wherein the chamber 11 is not evacuated below a pressure of a few milliTorr (e.g., when the chamber 11 is vented to atmospheric pressure with a non-oxidizing gas such as nitrogen prior to loading a substrate therein or when a substrate is transferred from the chamber 11 to a processing chamber 29 that employs pressures of a few milliTorr or higher). However, for applications that require pressures below a few milliTorr (e.g., pressures which cannot be obtained with a rough pump alone), a high vacuum pump (not shown) such as a cryopump also may be employed to allow substrate transfer between a high vacuum processing chamber and the chamber 11 (e.g., in a chamber configured such as that described in parent application Ser. No. 09/332,207, which does not employ a temperature adjustment plate 15, or in a chamber wherein the temperature adjustment plate 15 is positioned so as to allow substrate transfer to and from additional processing chambers).

To pre-condition the chamber 11 to a predetermined contamination level (e.g., so that less than 10 parts per million of O2 reside in the chamber 11) the chamber 11 may be purged at atmospheric pressure by flowing dry gas from the dry gas source 35 into the chamber 11 with the chamber exhaust valve 43 open, may be single-evacuation purged by evacuating the chamber 11 to a predetermined vacuum level via the pump 39 (by opening the isolation valve 41 coupled therebetween) and then back filling the chamber 11 with dry gas from the dry gas source 35, or may be cycle purged by repeatedly evacuating the chamber 11 to a predetermined vacuum level and then back filling the chamber 11 with dry gas from the dry gas source 35 to further reduce contamination levels beyond those achievable by atmospheric pressure or single evacuation purging.

FIG. 3B is a side elevational view of a temperature adjustment plate 15 b configured for substrate cooling (i.e., a cooling plate 15 b) that may be employed as the temperature adjustment plate 15 for the chamber 11. Specifically, to affect rapid cooling of a substrate following substrate heating within the processing chamber 29 the substrate is placed on the cooling plate 15 b via the substrate carriage 13, and water or a refrigerant (e.g., a 50% de-ionized water, 50% glycol solution having a freezing point below that of pure water) is flowed through channels 44 in the cooling plate 15 b. For example, an aluminum cooling plate may be cooled to about 5 to 25° C. by a cooling fluid supplied thereto from a cooling fluid source 45 via a pump 47.

The cooling plate 15 b preferably also employs a diffuser design as is known in the art, having up to ten thousand 0.02-0.1 inch diameter holes therein (not shown). The holes allow gas to flow through the cooling plate 15 b (e.g., from the dry gas source 35) and to be cooled by the cooling plate 15 b so as to improve cooling of a substrate positioned thereon (e.g., by cooling a backside of the substrate). Like the heating plate 15 a the cooling plate 15 b may require an elevated edge (not shown) or an electrostatic chuck (as is known in the art) so as to prevent substrate movement due to such backside gas flow. The walls of the chamber 11 may be the water or refrigerant cooled as well to further enhance substrate cooling.

FIG. 3C is a top plan view of a temperature adjustment plate 15 c configured for both heating and cooling, where a first substrate location (identified by reference numeral 15 a′) is configured for substrate heating as described with reference to FIG. 3A; and a second substrate location (identified by reference numeral 15 b′) is configured for substrate cooling as described with reference to FIG. 3B. The two substrate locations 15 a′, 15 b′ may be part of an integral plate, or may comprise two physically separated plates preferably with a distance of at least one inch therebetween.

Regardless of the specific temperature adjustment plate 15 a-c which the inventive chamber 11 employs, the inventive chamber 11 comprises relatively inexpensive components (e.g., the rotatable substrate carriage 13 and the substrate handler 24 (preferably adapted only for transferring a substrate along a straight line (i.e., a linear substrate handler) such as between the chamber 11 and a processing chamber)). Heating and/or cooling is economically performed with reduced footprint and increased throughput as the need for substrate transfer time to a separate heating and/or cooling module is eliminated. A controller C (FIG. 1) is coupled to the various chamber components (e.g., to the temperature adjustment plate 15, to the flow controller 40, to the isolation valve 41, to the chamber exhaust valve 43, to the cooling fluid source 45, to the heating element 31, to the substrate handler 24, to the motor 57, etc.) and is programmed so as to cause the inventive chamber 11 to perform the inventive method described below.

FIGS. 4A and 4B are front cross-sectional views of the preferred substrate carriage 13 in an elevated position and in a lowered position, respectively. As described below, the preferred substrate carriage 13 employs magnetic coupling.

With reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B, the central shaft 17 extends upwardly through an aperture 47 in a top surface 11 a of the chamber 11. A first bellows 49 seals the aperture 47 to an enclosure wall 50, positioned above the chamber 11. The enclosure wall 50 encloses an internal, magnet support 53 which is fixedly coupled to, or integrally formed with the substrate carriage 13, such that the internal magnet support 53 and the substrate carriage 13 move together as a unit.

As shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, a plurality of internal magnets 51 a-n (only internal magnets 51 a and 51 b are shown) are coupled to the internal magnet support 53 and are spaced from and are magnetically coupled to a plurality of external magnets 55 a-n (only external magnets 55 a and 55 b are shown). The internal and external magnets 51 a-n, 55 a-n preferably are permanent magnets having a number and spacing sufficient to allow the internal magnets 51 a-n (and the substrate carriage 13 coupled thereto) to rotate when the external magnets 55 a-n are rotated, and to elevate (i.e., lift or lower) when the external magnets 55 a-n are elevated. Preferably there are four internal magnets 51 a-n and four external magnets 55 a-n, each equally spaced, although other numbers of magnets and other magnet spacings may be employed depending on such factors as magnet strength, the material that separates the internal and external magnets (e.g., the material used for the enclosure wall 50), the torque exerted on the external magnets during rotation, etc.

A motor 57 is coupled to the external magnets 55 a-n, to the central shaft 17 via a slideable connection 59 (e.g., a guide rail connection) so as to slide vertically along the central shaft 17, and to the internal magnet support 53 via a plurality of bearings 61 a-n. The motor 57 preferably comprises both a rotational motor portion 57 a for providing rotational motion to the external magnets 55 a-n (and thus to the internal magnets 51 a-n and to the substrate carriage 13) and a linear motor portion 57 b for translating the external magnets 55 a-n (and thus the internal magnets 51 a-n and the substrate carriage 13) relative to the central shaft 17 (as described below). Both the motor 57 and the central shaft 17 are coupled to a supporting structure 63 (e.g. an equipment chassis, or any other support structure). A second bellows 65 seals the chamber 11 from particles/contaminants generated by the slideable connection 59 which exists between the motor 57 and the central shaft 17.

In operation, to rotate the substrate carriage 13, the rotational motor portion 57 a of the motor 57 is energized (e.g., by applying AC or DC power thereto as is known in the art) so as to exert rotational force on the external magnets 55 a-n (e.g., via a rotor 64 of the rotational motor portion 57 a). Due to magnetic coupling between the internal and external magnets 51 a-n, 55 a-n, as the external magnets 55 a-n rotate under the applied rotational force, the internal magnets 51 a-n and the substrate carriage 13 coupled thereto also rotate. The bearings 61 a-n allow the internal magnet support 53 to rotate freely relative to the stationary portions of the motor 57. The substrate carriage 13 (which is fixedly coupled to the internal magnet support 53) thereby is rotated, and may be rotated 360° if the rotational motor portion 57 a is energized for a sufficient time period.

To raise and lower the substrate carriage 13, the linear motor portion 57 b of the motor 57 is employed to translate the substrate carriage 13 relative to the central shaft 17. For example, to lower the substrate carriage 13 from its raised position (FIG. 4A) to its lowered position (FIG. 4B) wherein the pair of substrate supports 21 a-b extend below a top surface of the temperature adjustment plate 15, the linear motor portion 57 b of the motor 57 is energized so that a translating portion 67 (e.g., a motor shaft) of the linear motor portion 57 b is extended. As the translating portion 67 extends, due to contact with the stationary structure 63, the remainder of the motor 57 is pushed away from the stationary structure 63 while the central shaft 17 remains stationary. In this manner, the motor 57 (with the exception of the translating portion 67) slides along the slideable connection 59 toward the temperature adjustment plate 15, translating the external magnets 55 a-n, the internal magnets 51 a-n and the substrate carriage 13 (each of which are coupled either directly or via bearings to the motor 57) toward the temperature adjustment plate 15. The substrate carriage 13 thereby is lowered.

To raise the substrate carriage 13 from its lowered position (FIG. 4B) to its raised position (FIG. 4A) wherein the pair of substrate supports 2la-b are above the top surface of the temperature adjustment plate 15, the translating portion 67 is retracted. In response thereto, the remainder of the motor 57, and the external magnets 55 a-n, the internal magnets 51 a-n and the substrate carriage 13 coupled thereto, translate away from the temperature adjustment plate 15. The substrate carriage 13 thereby is raised (FIG. 4A). Preferably, a controller 69 (or the controller C of FIG. 1) is coupled to the motor 57 and is programmed to control the operation/timing of the raising, lowering and rotating functions of the substrate carriage 13 described above.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are a front elevational view and a side elevational view, respectively, of the chamber 11, employing a preferred magnetically levitated and magnetically coupled substrate handler 71, rather than the substrate handler 24 of FIGS. 2A and 2B. The substrate handler 71 comprises a blade 73 mounted on a first end of a shaft 75, and a disk 77 mounted on a second end of the shaft 75. The disk 77 is configured to support four vertically arranged and radially disposed magnets 79 a-d (e.g., four magnets approximately equally spaced about the disk 77 as shown). The magnets 79 a-d preferably comprise electromagnets. As shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B the shaft 75 extends through an elongated opening 81 located in the bottom wall of the transfer chamber 11. The opening 81 extends from the temperature adjustment plate 15 toward the processing chamber 29 a distance sufficient to place the substrate handler 71 beneath one of the substrate seats 23 a-c of the substrate carriage 13 when the substrate handler 71 is in a retracted position, and sufficient to place the blade 73 of the substrate handler 71 above a substrate support (not shown) located within the processing chamber 29. Thus the substrate handler 21 may transport a substrate between the substrate carriage 13 and a processing chamber 29.

An external channel wall 83 is sealed to (or may be integrally formed with) the chamber 11 and is coextensive with the opening 81. The external channel wall 83 is preferably configured to allow magnetic coupling therethrough. The substrate handler 71 is disposed such that the disk 77 is contained within the external channel wall 83, and such that the shaft 75 extends through the elongated opening 81 into the chamber 11 a distance sufficient to place the blade 73 at the same elevation as a top surface 82 of the temperature adjustment plate 15.

A rail 85 extends along the length of the external chamber wall 83. A bracket 87 having four external magnets 89 a-d (e.g., magnets) is mounted to the rail 85 and is coupled to a motor 91 such that the motor 91 drives the bracket 87 forward and backward along the rail 85. The external magnets 89 a-d are vertically arranged and are radially disposed along the inner surface of the bracket 87 so as to be adjacent the outer surface of the external channel wall 83 and so as to magnetically couple to the internal magnets 79 a-d. A distance sensor 93 a-d is positioned adjacent each internal/external magnet pair so as to sense the distance therebetween. The sensors 93 a-d, the external magnets 89 a-d and the motor 91 are each coupled to a controller 94 (or to the controller C of FIG. 1), and the controller is adapted to independently adjust the magnetization level of the external magnets 89 a-d (e.g., by adjusting the current supplied to each magnet 89 a-d) so as to maintain equal spacing between the magnet pairs, and thus to maintain the robot blade 73 in a level position.

In operation, to transfer a substrate between the substrate carriage 13 and the processing chamber 29, the substrate carriage 13 positions a substrate (not shown) above the blade 73 of the substrate handler 71. The substrate carriage 13 then lowers such that the blade 73 passes through the substrate seat 23 lifting the substrate therefrom. The slit 27 b that separates the chamber 11 and the processing chamber 29 also is opened. Thereafter the motor 91 is energized so as to move the bracket 87 along the rail 85 toward the processing chamber 29 at a speed which will maintain magnetic coupling between the internal magnets 79 a-d and the external magnets 89 a-d. As the bracket 87 moves along the rail 85 the distance sensors 93 a-d measure the distance between the internal magnets 79 a-d and the external magnets 89 a-d. These distance measurements are continually supplied to the controller 94 which is adapted to adjust the magnetization levels of the external magnets 89 a-d so as to maintain equal spacing between the various internal and external magnet pairs. The controller 94 also adjusts the speed at which the motor 91 moves the bracket 87 along the rail 85, reducing the speed if the distance sensors 93 a-d detect the bracket 87 is moving too quickly to maintain sufficient magnetic coupling between the internal and external magnet pairs. After the substrate handler 71 has traveled a sufficient distance such that the blade 73 is positioned above a substrate support (not shown) located within the processing chamber 29, the motor 91 is de-energized. A substrate lifting mechanism (not shown) such as a plurality of lift pins or a wafer lift hoop elevate from the substrate support, lifting the substrate from the blade 73. The motor 91 is then energized causing the bracket 87 to move backward toward the substrate carriage 13. When the blade 73 has cleared slit 27 b, the slit 27 b closes and processing begins within the processing chamber 29. The substrate handler 71 remains in position next to the slit 27 b until processing within the processing chamber 29 is complete.

After processing within the processing chamber 29 is complete the substrate handler 71 travels forward in the manner described above to extract the substrate from the processing chamber 29. While the substrate handler 71 is within the processing chamber 29, the substrate carriage 13 lowers to a position below the elevation of the substrate handler's blade 73. The substrate handler 71 then retracts carrying the substrate into position above the substrate carriage 13. The substrate carriage 13 elevates lifting the substrate from the substrate handler's blade 73, and simultaneously lifting any substrates positioned on the temperature adjustment plate 15 therefrom. The substrate carriage 13 rotates carrying the substrate retrieved from the processing chamber 29 (the “first” processed substrate) to a position above the temperature adjustment plate 15 and carrying one of the substrates lifted from the temperature adjustment plate 15 into position above the substrate handler 71. The substrate carriage 13 then lowers transferring the substrates from the substrate carriage 13 to the temperature adjustment plate 15 and to the substrate handler 71. A second substrate is then loaded into the processing chamber 29 as described above and, depending on the configuration of the temperature adjustment plate 15, the first processed substrate is either cooled on the temperature adjustment plate 15, heated by the temperature adjustment plate 15 (e.g., as an annealing step) or immediately extracted therefrom by a front-end loader robot (not shown). The front-end loader robot places a new “third” substrate on a first side of the temperature adjustment plate 15 and extracts the first processed substrate from the second side of the temperature adjustment plate 15. It will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that the sequence of substrate heating, cooling and processing may vary according to the requirements of the fabrication process being performed. For example, a substrate may be degassed via the temperature adjustment plate 15 prior to entry into the processing chamber 29, and/or cooled, annealed or annealed and cooled by the temperature adjustment plate 15 after processing within the processing chamber 29.

Note that an additional advantage of the inventive substrate handling apparatus described herein is that various components (e.g., the temperature adjustment plate 15, the substrate carriage 13, the substrate handler 24, the magnetically levitated and magnetically coupled substrate handler 71, etc.) are each coupled either directly or indirectly to only one surface of the chamber 11 (e.g., a bottom surface 11 b as shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B). Accordingly, as the walls of the chamber 11 deflect during evacuation or venting of the chamber 11 (e.g., due to the generation or elimination of a large pressure differential between the interior and exterior environments of the chamber 11) substrate transfer is unaffected as all substrate handling and/or supporting components are identically affected by such deflections.

The foregoing description discloses only the preferred embodiments of the invention, modifications of the above disclosed apparatus and method which fall within the scope of the invention will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. For instance, other methods of heating a substrate may be employed, such as employing a heat lamp positioned along the top surface of the chamber 11 to aid in heating of a substrate positioned on the temperature adjustment plate 15 or of a substrate supported by the substrate carriage 13. The specific shape of the various chamber components, the coupling therebetween, the number of substrates to be supported by the temperature adjustment plate 15 and/or the substrate carriage 13 may vary as may the number of processing chambers 29 coupled to the chamber 11. Although a magnetically coupled substrate carriage and a substrate handler which is both magnetically coupled and magnetically levitated are preferred, substrate carriages and substrate handlers which are not magnetically coupled or magnetically levitated may be employed. Finally, although the invention is most advantageously employed with a substrate handler preferably adapted only for transferring a substrate along a straight line (a linear substrate handler), other types of substrate handlers may be employed. In fact, the inventive magnetically coupled and magnetically levitated substrate handler may be employed within a transfer chamber such as that described in parent application Ser. No. 09/332,207 which requires the substrate handler to transport substrates between the substrate carriage and various processing or load lock chambers. The inventive magnetically coupled substrate carriage may be employed in other transfer chamber's such as those described in parent application Ser. No. 09/332,207, as may the temperature adjustment plate. The concept of heating or cooling a substrate via a heating and/or cooling mechanism contained within a transfer chamber, may be employed within other chambers, and is not to be limited to the specific chambers described herein.

Further modifications may be advantageously made to the chamber. For instance, the cooling plate may be located above the substrate carriage. To transfer a wafer to such a cooling plate an empty slot of the substrate carriage is positioned below the cooling plate, the substrate carriage then elevates to a position above the cooling plate. The carousel rotates so as to position a wafer above the cooling plate and then lowers the wafer onto the cooling plate.

An inventive indexing pod door opener may eliminate the need for a separate front end robot. Preferably the pod door opener is provided with vacuum pump/vent capability so that the pod door may operate as a load lock. The substrate carriage chamber's robot may directly extract wafers from the pod door opener. The substrate carriage chamber's robot stroke need not be lengthened because the chamber is designed such that the robot can load/unload wafers from processing chambers, and loading/unloading from one or more processing chambers requires the same stroke as does loading and unloading wafers from the pod door opener. Further, the pod door opener may index vertically to eliminate the need for the pod door receiver to move the pod door vertically to allow access to wafers contained within the pod, and to eliminate the need for the loading/unloading robot to index vertically. Finally, numerous chambers configured in accordance with the invention may be coupled via passthrough tunnels and may allow creation of a stage vacuum system and/or a transfer chamber than is not exposed atmosphere.

Accordingly, while the present invention has been disclosed in connection with the preferred embodiments thereof, it should be understood that other embodiments may fall within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined by the following claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification118/724, 414/331.04, 414/217, 414/939, 118/719, 204/298.25, 414/749.1, 414/222.12, 414/222.01, 414/403, 204/298.35, 414/223.01, 414/222.07, 414/935, 414/937, 414/331.02
International ClassificationH01L21/687, H01L21/677, H01L21/00
Cooperative ClassificationY10S414/139, Y10S414/135, Y10S414/137, H01L21/67745, H01L21/67126, H01L21/68792, H01L21/67109, H01L21/67196, H01L21/68771, H01L21/68785, H01L21/67742, H01L21/67103, H01L21/67766, H01L21/68764
European ClassificationH01L21/687S20, H01L21/687S22, H01L21/687S14, H01L21/687S16, H01L21/677B4, H01L21/677D2, H01L21/67S2H4, H01L21/67S2M, H01L21/67S2Z8, H01L21/67S2H2, H01L21/677B2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 19, 2006FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20061022
Oct 23, 2006LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
May 10, 2006REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
Mar 29, 2000ASAssignment
Owner name: APPLIED MATERIALS, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:PERLOV, ILYA;GODER, ALEXEY;GANTVARG, EUGENE;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:010688/0897;SIGNING DATES FROM 20000324 TO 20000328
Owner name: APPLIED MATERIALS, INC. P.O. BOX 450A LEGAL AFFAIR